A group of parents gathered late Friday night in the football stadium parking lot to await the Grandview Heights High School football team’s return from an away game turned heroes after discovering the apartment building at the corner of Third Avenue and North Star was on fire.
“The mood had been celebratory because we won the football game, but in just a few minutes, it all changed,” said Cindy Peck, who first noticed flames in one of the apartment building’s upstairs windows.
Peck said her first thought was that she was seeing lit candles, but she quickly realized the building was on fire.
The group of parents had noticed a “burning” smell in the air, she said.
“We even talked about it, because it didn’t smell like someone had a fire going,” Peck said.
When she noticed the building was on fire, the group sprang into action.
While Peck banged on the window, her husband, Marty Peck, along with Chris King, Scott Murphy, Kevin Rouch and Mark Snyder, began knocking on the apartment doors. King called 911 on his cell phone.
Three of the apartments were occupied.
One of the first-floor apartments was occupied by an elderly man, Marty Peck said.
“We were able to get him out, but he kind of frustrated me because he wanted to go back and put his shirt on,” he said. “I told him to just get out of the building because the upper floor may collapse at any minute.”
The group was able to notify another man who lived in one of the upstairs apartments and he also got out safely.
The woman living in the second upstairs apartment, where the fire began, did not respond to the pounding on the door.
“We went around to the back door to her apartment,” King said.
King used his shoulder to force open the door.
“The bottom half of the door was wooden and the upper half was glass,” he said. “I broke the glass and stuck my hand in to open the door. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I cut my hand.”
King later required four stitches.
“We thought about trying to enter the apartment, but the smoke was so heavy, there was no way we could do that,” he said.
Initial verbal contact was made with the resident of the apartment, King said.
“We heard her respond once, then we didn’t hear her again,” he said.
Marty Peck said used the flashlight on his cell phone and yelled to the woman to try to make her way toward the light.
“She wasn’t responding,” he said.
It was horrifyingly frustrating to be unable to enter the apartment to try to get the woman out, Marty Peck said.
Columbus firefighters arrived just a few minutes later, although the minutes seemed to crawl by, he said.
“We told them about the woman and they went in and were able to rescue her,” Peck said. “They had to perform CPR on her and she was taken away in critical condition.
“We’re just praying that she will be all right,” he said.
ThisWeek was unable to learn of her condition as of Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s just so fortunate that Friday night happened to be an away game and that we just happened to be in the parking lot,” Cindy Peck said.
The fire was discovered between 11 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. If Friday’s contest had been a home game, it is likely no one would have still be at the stadium that late, she said.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Cindy Peck said.